You just can’t trust a time portal. As soon as you think you can relax, eat a little dinner, another old family member drops by. Or, rather pops up.
“So,” says Uncle Shmuel, who has appeared out of nowhere and now miraculously speaks vernacular American English — albeit with a heavy Yiddish accent. “Nice place you got here. I see you keep your animals in your house. That one there sounds like a pig but looks like a dog.”
“They are our pets, Uncle Shmuel. The oinker is Nan. She just makes that sound. She’s kind of old. I think that’s the dog equivalent of ‘oy’.”
“Pets, shmets. Animals. In the house. What’s next? Toilets? Never mind, your life, your choice. Oy.”
“Can I give you something to eat? Tea? Coffee? Cake? If we don’t have it, I can go out and buy some.”
“Are you Kosher?”
“Uh, no. Not Kosher,” and I shiver, thinking of the bacon and ham that yet lives in our kitchen. “Oh, wait, here’s my husband. Uncle Shmuel, I’d like you to meet my husband Garry.”
Shmuel looks shrewdly at Garry, then at me. “He doesn’t look Jewish.”
Garry’s eyes twinkle. “But really I am,” he says and deftly pulls a yarmulke out of his pocket. You have to hand it to Garry. He’s very sharp. The yarmulke has “Joel’s Bar Mitzvah” printed across the back in big white letters. Fortunately, Shmuel doesn’t notice.
“So,” Shmuel continues after a pregnant pause, “You still have problems with Cossacks?”
“No. No more Cossacks, but too many politicians,” I reply.
“Cossacks, politicians, there’s a difference?” he asks.
“Not so much,” I admit. He’s right. There is no difference, except maybe for the absence of a horse.
“And for a living, you do what?”
“We’re retired. But before that, I was a writer. Garry was a reporter. On television.”
“What’s a television?” I look at Shmuel. That’s when I realize we are about to embark on an extended conversation. All I say is: “Oy vay is mir!” Which seems to sum it up.
When Sean Connery looks across the card table during a game of Baccarat Chemin de Fer in the opening of Dr. No, he started one of the greatest movie series ever simply by giving his name, “Bond, James Bond.” Since then the Bond films have gone on to be one of the most successful movies franchises ever. The eight Harry Potter films achieved unprecedented box office numbers. Star Wars is back near the top. If you add up all the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, they get number one on the revenue list, but there are many films; you know, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Guardians of the Galaxy. These are not all about one character, so does it count? There are 25 Bond films, and it will take at least 2 more for the series to equal the Potter gross revenue figures.
Previously we recapped the first 4 Bond films, starring Connery as the super spy. Connery was back for the fifth outing in 1967’s You Only Live Twice, based loosely, very loosely, on the 12th Ian Fleming novel of the same name. Since the novel is a continuation of a story line from a previous novel, not yet filmed, we are in for some Cold War era rewrites here.
Consider this paragraph a giant spoiler alert. In the opening Bond is sent to Japan where he is set up and killed by foreign agents. The naval commander is buried at sea and that is the end of Bond. OK, it’s not. It is all a set up so Bond can go under cover in Japan to work with the head of the Japanese secret service to find out who has captured an American spacecraft. Here we get to see Bond train as a ninja and invade, along with a female assistant, of course, an island run by an evil SPECTRE mastermind. There are battles, explosions, chases and remarkable rescues, just the usual Bond magic.
Remarkably, the next movie is based on the previous novel, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). The sixth Bond production brings on a new actor in the role of the super hero and a new director. Since Connery decided to retire from the role, the producers elected to go with an unknown Australian actor and model, George Lazenby. His good looks and screen tests won him the role.
The story involves a “Bond girl” who James saves at the opening, then later meets at a casino. It’s actress Diana Rigg in an early role as a Countess. Her father sets Bond on an investigation of her solicitor, which in turn leads the spy to an evil plot by the head of SPECTRE (a plan to distribute biological warfare). This may all sound rather fantastic, but this time the producers tried to stay closer to the book. Yes, the film series got people reading the books. Imagine that!
By the end of filming, Lazenby had decided that he had enough of Bond, even though he was offered the next movie which was supposed to be The Man With The Golden Gun. He passed on it and the movie was put on hold. It was reported that Lazenby’s agent told him the Bond series would be outdated by the 1970’s anyway.
After a couple of years and a film that did not have the box office magic of the Connery films, there was only one thing for the producers to do. They decided to bring back the magic. The story was switched to Diamonds Are Forever (1971). Guy Hamilton was brought back to direct. He was the director of the critically acclaimed Goldfinger. John Barry again did the score, as he did for all but one of the Bond films. Shirley Bassey, who sang the title tune for Goldfinger, is back for this title tune. There is a gorgeous “Bond girl” with Jill St. John. Just one more element was needed to insure a return to the top for the movie series.
Producers gave their Bond actor over a million dollars (unheard of territory then) and a piece of the gross to take on the super suave spy. Finally, the major challenge was met and Sean Connery was set to return as “007.”
The story is based on the 4th Ian Fleming novel published in 1956. Bond is chasing diamond smugglers and the action moves from South Africa to Holland to the United Kingdom and on to Las Vegas. Of course, a bit of a rewrite of the story allows us to have an old nemesis, Ernest Stavro Blofeld, a SPECTRE mastermind. The Bond girl is appropriately named, Tiffany Case. Fleming loved to give the girls names with double meanings within the story. The Las Vegas chase scene almost makes the movie experience worth the time. The casino owner at the middle of the thriller is played by Jimmy Dean. Yes, that Jimmy Dean, country singer and sausage king.
From here the film series moves on to the Roger Moore years. In 1973 Moore becomes the famous spy for the next seven films. Connery moves on to other film projects, promising never to play the secret agent again.
Owners of the Thunderball rights, won in a court battle, desired to film the movie. Additional court battles over what could be used would follow upon any attempt to make a rival Bond film in the midst of the Bond years. Even while the Roger Moore films were being released, plans for a rival Bond movie were moving forward. Not wanting to call the film by the same name and facing a variety of legal challenges, the producers went ahead with a similar story and no rights to the iconic music. Even with a good script, how could they be successful in the same year with the release of a Roger Moore film?
The only solution seemed to be a film starring Sean Connery as James Bond, but Connery was 52 years old. Moore, on the other hand, was older. While Connery looked fit and able to play an action hero, the story was modified as if “007” was under used due to age. He is brought back to deal with the hijacking of 2 nuclear bombs. Like Thunderball, there is a limited time to find the bombs and save the world from massive destruction. Connery makes the most out of playing an aging James Bond who can still deliver in times of crisis. The overall result is a film much more satisfying than the original Thunderball. Some thought the short underwater climax was disappointing, but it was better than the overblown original.
Connery provides us with all the charm you would expect of the world’s most famous “secret” agent. The film did almost as well at the box office as the Roger Moore/James Bond film that year, Octopussy. The title of the Thunderball remake was suggested by Connery’s wife who reminded them that Connery had previously said “Never again” to playing the famous British agent.
Bill woke up refreshed on another warm and pleasant Florida morning. As he lie awake staring at the window shades, he wondered what time it could possibly be. In retirement, Bill did not worry about such things as alarm clocks. Yes, he had one just in case he needed it, but he tried never to set it. This Monday, however, Bill did have something he wished to do. So he decided to get up and start his week.
Not far away, at the county hospital, Harold was barely conscious. He had been transferred from Intensive Care to a regular hospital room. It was a trip from one bland room to another, although the current room did not contain so many machines humming and whirring, not that any of the noise was noticed by the recovering retiree.
The previous Monday Harold was brought to the emergency room. He had a stroke on Monday, or perhaps even the day before, no one knows for sure. Harold was not talking and they could only make a guess. The paramedics told a neighbor it did not seem to be a long time, but they were not sure.
Bill, and nosey Mabel Crockett, were the only neighbors who knew where Harold had gone. Neither knew of any of Harold’s friends or relatives, so Harold had to lie for a week in Intensive Care while Bill tried in vain to get news. Now he could finally go and see his retirement friend.
In truth, Harold was not in much better shape, but since he had moved to a regular room, he was allowed visitors. As no one had been notified, there was no one to visit Harold until now. Even though Harold had been a master planner in his profession, he had never planned for a life event of this magnitude. As a result, his future was in the hands of strangers to whom he could not communicate.
When Bill had finished his morning routine, including a light breakfast, he prepared for a trip to the hospital to see Harold. All through the previous week, Bill had tried to see Harold and was turned away on every occasion. He was not a relative and since there was no medical power of attorney or permissions granted, no one besides the medical staff could see old Harold.
At the moment Bill was ready to give up on Harold the previous week, a hospital volunteer slipped him the word the Harold had improved and would earn his way to a regular room. Now Bill was ready to go find out if Harold could tell him anything about friends or relatives. Just who should be notified.
Bill drove through the light traffic to the county hospital and parked in the multi-level parking garage. It seemed that all of the spaces on the first two levels were reserved for staff or the handicapped so Bill drove up and parked near the elevator. He rode down, walked across the roadway that lead to the Emergency Room, and entered the hospital.
The same receptionist who Bill saw everyday the previous week was on duty, but this time she was able to give him some information and a room pass.
“Good morning,” she said upon seeing Bill. “You will want to go to the fifth floor and when you get off the elevator, go right and down to room 502.” At that she handed Bill a room pass and instructed him to return it when he came down.
“Hello,” Bill said with a smile when he was finally able to jump in. “Thanks,” he continued as he took the pass and headed to the room. Oddly enough, no one ever asked to see the pass that Bill stuck in his pocket.
When Bill arrived at the room he discovered a whole group of medical people around Harold’s bed. They seemed to be discussing their plan of recovery for Harold. They all spoke as if Harold was not even in the room.
“He’s already been here a week and there is only slight improvement in motor skills,” one doctor announced to the gathering.
“We believe his cognitive skills will return to full capacity,” another doctor chimed in, “but only time will tell for sure.”
A nurse stated that Harold was being fed by a tube in the stomach because he was incapable of eating. The brown liquid in the bag hanging overhead would have to do for a while.
As the discussion of Harold’s condition, both good and bad, continued, Bill asked the nurse if he could see her in the hall. “Can Harold hear what all of you are saying?”
The nurse explained that Harold might be able to hear but perhaps he could not follow along too well because of the medication. “Then don’t you think we should be careful what we say about his recovery?” Bill wanted to know, trying to make a point she did not understand.
“Yes,” the nurse replied in a cheery voice, “please be careful what you say.” A frustrated Bill walked back into the room where the discussion of Harold’s condition continued.
A physical therapist discussed rehabilitation plans. This was followed by a speech therapist. She not only spoke of the relearning to talk, she also discussed the work that would be necessary to teach swallowing. This act that we all take for granted would have to be relearned following the paralyzing effect on one side of the body.
An occupational therapist was the next to speak. There would be a need to practice typical household chores, such as reaching for cans and bottles and opening them, preparing food, and doing everyday tasks.
All of the therapists and doctors announced a schedule they would follow each week. They discussed a timetable for success and how much they had hoped to accomplish in an optimal situation. As they left the room, Bill tried frantically to ask how long this would take and if Harold would fully recover.
As that was taking place, a slight smile appeared on Harold’s face. The Midwest planner was pleased at the extensive day-to-day plan they had laid out for him.
If there was anything Harry did not need, it was more disappointment. He’d had a lifetime of disappointments, but it seemed he was in for another. Mistreated and mislabeled, he was now also abandoned. Unintentionally abandoned, but for Harry, alone was alone.
Harry came into the world with great hope. His mother picked out for her new-born the name of the most famous boy in the world. The little child was named after the boy wizard of book and movie fame, Harry Potter. She thought he even looked a little like the drawings of Harry on the book covers.
As he grew, little Harry had trouble learning. He never developed good reading skills. He often baffled his mother, telling her the letters moved, and words did not make sense when put together. Eventually, his mother told him he was stupid, and accused him of not trying. Just to confuse the issue, she followed that by telling him he was bright (which was true) and could read if he wanted to read. Which was not true. The further behind he fell in school, the more labels he acquired. But no one gave him the right label: “Dyslexic.”
The lad withdrew. He began hiding in the last place anyone would look for him. The library.
And so, a boy who could not read looked at the books in the comfortable Florida Public Library and waited. Maybe someone would come and read to him. Someone who would explain the stories. It was hard to find anybody to do this until he spotted Harold looking at the Harry Potter books. Little Harry decided that Harold was his new friend.
Harold had been going to the library every Tuesday and Thursday to read books on engineering and machinery. Sometimes Harold considered histories, but one day he strayed from his usual plan to look at the books about which he’d heard so much. The Harry Potter series.
When Harry, the boy with the reading problem, spied Harold in the “fantasy aisle,” he instantly knew he’d found someone to read to him. Since Harry had become rather withdrawn in recent months, he began the relationship by staring at Harold and the first Harry Potter book.
The librarian’s assistant misinterpreted Harold’s attempts to send little Harry away. She thought Harry and Harold were together. So she opened the usually shuttered reading room, making it possible for Harold to read aloud to the boy.
Harold read to the boy that first day but had no intention of continuing. Nevertheless, it turned into a regular Tuesday and Thursday affair.
Harry knew old Harold was not a great storyteller. He was obviously uncomfortable reading out loud. But little Harry liked Harold’s awkward attempts at it. And Harry was learning. It seems Harold was keeping an eye on little Harry and when he could see the boy did not understand something he read, he would stop to explain it.
Sometimes the boy would be emboldened to ask questions. Even though the boy with the little wizard face was not yet learning to read, he was building his vocabulary.
Then one Tuesday there was no Harold at the library. Harry waited rather impatiently, but his new friend never showed up. The boy roamed the lobby, then just stood there staring off into space, as if he was lost. It was a sad sight. Thursday brought the same scenario. When the little boy looked as if he was going to cry, the Librarian stepped in.
“What seems to be the problem, young man?” she asked Harry in a businesslike tone.
“He’s not here,” Harry said loudly, and tears rolled down his face.
“Shh. This is a library. Now, explain to me. Who is missing?”
Harry tried to explain, but was so upset he couldn’t. Seeing this, the librarian’s assistant rushed over to help. When she finished telling what she knew, the three stood there staring at one another. Harry remained dejected.
At last, the assistant suggested, “Maybe your friend is ill and can’t come. I’m sure he’d be here if he could be.” Of course, she had no idea how accurate she was.
“But he’s supposed to read to me today,” Harry whimpered.
“I know,” the helpful assistant said, “but he can’t come if he’s sick. You know how your mother makes you stay home if you’re not feeling well, right?”
The boy didn’t know. His mother ignored him when he was sick, figuring it was a ploy to stay home from school. The boy looked at the Librarian and her assistant, his face full of sadness and mistrust. So the assistant went on.
“I’m sure your friend will be back to read for you very soon.” Of course, she had no way of knowing when, or if, Harold would be back to read.
Even while the three stood in the Library lobby wondering, a doctor stood at the foot Harold’s bed in the hospital’s Intensive Care unit reading his chart. This Thursday, Harold could not read, talk, or explain anything to anyone.
It was just about time for Tiffany’s favorite customer to arrive, so she took a spot at the server’s station. That was located at the end of a long bar. There, between the bar and the back wall, was an area for water, extra glasses and silverware. Neatly tucked into an alcove was a computer with a touch screen. On the modern device, the waitresses could place their orders which would go back to the kitchen or alert the bar tender of something to prepare. They also had a spot to bring dirty dishes for handsome young Hispanic bus boys to take to the back kitchen. It was not unusual for a waitress to be there, but Tiffany was there for a particular reason.
From the end of the bar, at the server’s station, one could look down the length of the Wild West Restaurant and Sports Bar and see the front door. When Tiffany’s favorite customer arrived promptly at 1 pm, Tiffany planned to direct him to a table that was in her serving area. If he sat outside that area, she would have to let one of the others wait on Harold. She just did not like that idea.
Tiffany had started working at the restaurant and bar three years earlier. She was in her earlier 30’s then and had a friendly and energetic way that got her hired by the hard-working managers. After a while, she became a favorite waitress for many of the regular patrons. She usually worked through the lunch hour and into the early evening. Sometimes she covered on a later shift where drunken patrons tipped her well. Despite that, she still preferred the afternoons.
After she was well established at the restaurant, a retired gentlemen from the Midwest became a regular Wednesday and Saturday afternoon customer. He was very punctual, arriving right at 1 pm each time. Tiffany knew his order and he was easy to serve. When Tiffany had left for a few months to try a new, and allegedly exciting place, she found she missed the atmosphere and the friends at the Wild West. She did not realize how much like family they were until she went away. The customers were nice, the managers were fair and friendly and the other waitresses were like sisters. When she got the opportunity, she returned.
Harold started coming to the Wild West Restaurant and Sports bar shortly after he had left the cold Midwest climate for sunny retirement on the Gulf Coast of Florida. He liked the Soup and Sandwich special each Wednesday and Saturday so he quickly made that part of his schedule. You see, Harold was very well-organized and when he put something on his schedule, you could depend that he would follow through on it. That’s why all of the employees knew Harold was about to walk in the door.
Tiffany had a sweet spot for Harold, as the saying goes. Even though he did not say a lot, she found him rather endearing. She looked forward to his dependability as well as his smile. It just sort of indicated that there was some order in the world. Despite the lack of conversation, she knew he appreciated these twice weekly visits
When the front door opened at 1 pm, Tiffany was ready with a smile, but the patron was not Harold. Nevertheless, she politely smiled as a young man took a seat where Tiffany had planned to place Harold. It was OK, there were other places for Harold that he would like. A few empty tables had a good view of one of the televisions. So, she brought the young man water and a menu and returned to the server’s station. She tried to watch the door diligently, but the lunch crowd kept taking her away from her post.
At 13:30 it was apparent something was wrong. Time had gone by quickly before Tiffany realized Harold was late. He always came through the door at the exact minute. Some days she was convinced he waited around outside for a few minutes so he could be precisely on time at 1 pm. This particular Wednesday he was not there at 1, 1:30 or at 2. Harold did not arrive for lunch.
Tiffany’s disappointment was noticeable to her coworkers. She liked how nicely Harold fit into the routine, and now he was missing. Could he have gone to another restaurant? Could he have scheduled some place new? Could she have lost her favorite customer? Questions swirled through her head. What could possibly be the answer? Perhaps he was sick. Perhaps he had an accident. Perhaps he was stuck at home and had to make his own lunch. Whatever was the issue, she hoped Harold was doing well and had good food.
At that very hour Harold was indeed having lunch. A middle-aged nurse, who looked like she had not slept for a day or two, was hanging a fresh bag to feed Harold intravenously directly with the stomach tube. It was not the sort of meal he was used to on a Wednesday afternoon, but it seems he was in no position to object as the stroke had left him rather speechless. Today’s meal definitely was not on his schedule.
George and his ever talkative wife Martha had just about enough of the Midwest winter. They were tired of snow, tired of cold. At close-to-retirement age, they were just plain tired. When another cold night forced them to stay at home rather than visit a favorite neighborhood stop, they realized there was only one thing that could pull them through to warmer weather. Baseball! Right then and there, they began to talk about a trip to sunny Florida for a round of spring training games.
A year before, they had traveled to Florida on a rare road trip to see the Chicago Cubs play. The Cubs lost but they deemed the trip a success. They had visited a ball park other than Wrigley Field, spent a day at the beach, and wandered through town to do some typical tourist shopping. They had some very hot days, but did not suffer the kind of stifling humidity Lake Michigan can serve up in July. Now, in March, they were ready to go south again.
George sat down with spring schedules to see what teams would be playing. He wanted to find the best matches for the days they could go to Florida. Martha researched the ball parks themselves and the surrounding night spots on the internet. When they had chosen a few games they might like to see, they looked at hotels, air fares and rental cars. After a full night of debate and delay, they made their choices.
They would return to the familiar spots of St. Petersburg. From there they could go to Tampa to see the Yankees, then down to Bradenton to catch the Pirates and from there to Sarasota to see the Orioles.
Unlike the famous George and Martha of Broadway play and movie fame, this couple rarely had arguments. In fact, they were in agreement on just about anything that meant parties and good times. When almost all of their arrangements were in place, and they were congratulating themselves on another “road trip extraordinaire”, Martha had one more good idea. Of course, the good idea may have been fueled by the German beer she had been drinking all night, but it was an interesting idea, nonetheless.
“Why don’t we call old Harold for the game in Bradenton or Sarasota?” Martha blurted out as if her head had been hit by a rock and she was stunned silly.
“Harold!” George shouted with glee. “That’s a wonderful idea. The old boy probably needs a road trip anyway. Let’s give lucky old Harold a call.”
While Martha dutifully looked for Harold’s phone number, George wondered why the little tapper of Dortmunder beer had run dry. “I am headed to the basement, ” George called out. “I have to find another one of these big cans of beer. You killed the last one.”
“I did no such thing, George,” Martha lied.
When the twosome finally met back at the kitchen table, each was carrying the object of their search. “Well dial the phone and hand it over, old woman,” George said with a laugh.
“I am not as old as you, wise guy,” Martha said as she handed over the phone. Both began to giggle and laugh like school kids up to no good. The phone rang away as the couple talked on until George finally realized there must have been at least 20 rings. He hung up.
“I can not imagine that Harold is not home at this hour. He was never out late.” It was true, of course. In all his life Harold was rarely out at night, and since he retired and moved to Florida, he was always home by dark.
“He’s probably sleeping, you nit wit,” Martha declared. “Let’s give him another try tomorrow.” And so they did. In fact, they called for several days in a row and at different times of day, but Harold never answered. When the day of the trip arrived, Harold was not part of the plan.
Undeterred by their lack of success at lining up Harold for a game, they resolved to try him again once they landed at the Florida airport. They departed from Chicago’s Midway airport. Unbelievably, it was once the busiest airport in the country, but that was before the jet age. Now the crowded airport just seemed like the busiest airport. St. Petersburg airport, on the other hand, was in stark contrast, even for spring training. The crowd was small and the rental car line was short. The couple got their car, got to their hotel, and got on the phone. Still, there was no Harold.
“I hope the old guy is OK,” Martha said, finally voicing more than a bit of concern.
“Sure, Harold is just fine,” George insisted. “He is probably at some nice restaurant right now being fussed over by some cute waitresses. Don’t worry.”
At that very moment Harold was being fussed over by some weary nurses at the Intensive Care Unit of the county hospital. This trip, the retired planner from the Midwest was going to miss the endlessly talkative George and Martha.
Note: The next Harold story appears next week. What happened to Harold? The previous story: “Missing Monday“
Charlene was delighted with her tree. Everywhere else, when someone had a statement to make, it was always stupid toilet paper. All over the tree and then it would drizzle or rain and for weeks, the tree looked like it had some kind of hideous fungus on it.
She had done a much better job. Bright, colorful. It was a cheerful, happy tree and what started with anger, ended in art. She barely remembered why she started “fixing” the tree. She thought something had made her angry and she wanted to show the world, but before she was even a quarter of the way through it, the project had morphed into Art.
Brianna was going to be really surprised when she stepped out of the house that morning. Not a single sheet of toilet paper. Just bright colors swinging gaily from the little tree by the gate.
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